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Hawaii bills would abolish criminal penalties for airport infractionsHawaii bills would abolish criminal penalties for airport infractions

Two AOPA-backed bills before Hawaii’s legislature could end the state’s practice of imposing criminal penalties for minor violations of airport rules, such as hangar-use infractions.

Hawaii is the only state that imposes sanctions that can result in a permanent criminal record in such cases—something AOPA considers a priority for reform in 2017.

Measures introduced in the Hawaii House and Senate have both cleared preliminary committee reviews. House Bill 1184 and Senate Bill 1163 assert that imposing criminal penalties for certain violations “has been excessive and disproportionate to the gravity of the acts committed. A more just approach would be to impose only civil penalties for violations of rules relating to airport safety and licensing of persons engaged in commercial activities at public airports, and reserve criminal penalties for conduct that causes more harm.”

“Hawaii is the only state issuing citations for hangar infractions, which make accused individuals vulnerable to charges that might result in a permanent criminal record,” said Melissa McCaffrey, AOPA Western Pacific regional manager. “These are not simple parking tickets or civil infractions; these are criminal misdemeanor charges.”

AOPA has been working to persuade lawmakers of the need to reform the process, and has helped rally pilots to submit testimony on the two bills.

“Our efforts continue," she said. "We have come a long way and the future looks promising.”

McCaffrey urges AOPA members in Hawaii to reach out to their state lawmakers and request that they support the legislation.

“Issuing criminal citations for minor violations is a slippery slope that affects pilots' careers, ability to fly into several countries, or obtain a security clearance,” she said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, State Legislation

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